One of the most influential intellectuals in the English-speaking world, Michael Ignatieff’s story is generally understood to be that of an ambitious, accomplished progressive politician and writer, whose work and thought fit within an enlightened political tradition valuing human rights and diversity. Here, journalist Derrick O’Keefe argues otherwise. In this scrupulous assessment of Ignatieff’s life and politics, he reveals that Ignatieff’s human rights discourse has served to mask his identification with political and economic elites.
Tracing the course of his career over the last thirty years, from his involvement with the battles between Thatcher and the coal miners in the 1980s to the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza, O’Keefe proposes that Ignatieff and his political tradition have in fact stood in opposition to the extension of democracy and the pursuit of economic equality. Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? is a timely assessment of the Ignatieff phenomenon, and of what it tells us about the politics of the English-speaking West today.
About the series: Counterblasts is a new Verso series that aims to revive the tradition of polemical writing inaugurated by Puritan and leveller pamphleteers in the seventeenth century, when in the words of one of them, Gerard Winstanley, the old world was “running up like parchment in the fire.” From 1640 to 1663, a leading bookseller and publisher, George Thomason, recorded that his collection alone contained over twenty thousand pamphlets. Such polemics reappeared both before and during the French, Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions of the last century. In a period of conformity where politicians, media barons and their ideological hirelings rarely challenge the basis of existing society, it’s time to revive the tradition. Verso’s Counterblasts will challenge the apologists of Empire and Capital.
“Highly readable book...a useful contribution to the public’s understanding of the former Liberal leader...”
“This is an important book that anyone who cares about Canada’s political future should own and read.”
“[A]n impressive and accessible call for a real alternative to the 'lesser evil'”
“A fascinating look at the politics and history of Ignatieff; quite a few surprises with great quotes from the man himself.”
“O’Keefe’s intellectual biography...can be read not just as an account of the slippery and self-serving contortions of Ignatieff’s thinking, but of the bankruptcy of both Canada’s political aristocracy and of the strange beast that passes as North American liberalism. Other lesser evils deserve a similar treatment.”